Heartbreak in Holton: Lions’ streak halted by No. 1-ranked Wildcats, 69-22
Holton When the Lansing High football team drew defending state champion Holton as its regional playoff opponent, the Lions knew they had a colossal challenge on their hands.
The undefeated Wildcats not only had home-field advantage on their side, but they also had a 16-game winning streak as proof they knew how to win.
The Lions tried their darndest not to become victim No. 17, but were no match for the bigger, faster, more experienced Wildcats.
Holton 69, Lansing 22.
The loss ended what is believed by many to be the best season in Lansing history. Coach Bill Pekarek said as much when he addressed his squad following the game.
"I don't think they've ever made it this far," Pekarek said. "We're happy for some of the things our team's accomplished and we don't want to downplay this too much tonight. They played great. We missed some tackles. They scored some long runs. We wish we could've played better, but we didn't."
"But I think we didn't sit there and just quit. We kept trying to come back and throw and do everything we could. We threw about 50 passes tonight. We told them we're going to try to do whatever it takes to try to win the game. We just unfortunately didn't play good enough defense tonight, but you know our defense has played well all season. We just didn't quite do it tonight."
As much as Pekarek said his Lions (8-3) had to be proud of from their season, none of his players liked the bitter taste in their mouths as a result of the whipping Holton delivered.
The Wildcats (11-0) exploded to a 21-0 lead less than eight minutes into the game on a two-yard touchdown run by Alex Mercer, a 34-yard scoring run by Nick Allen and a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown by Fielding Brenner.
The Lions seemed finished before they'd even started, when a strange turn of events took place.
Lansing opened up its passing game in the second quarter and quarterback Matt Warner hit running back Jeff Slater on a deep fly pattern for a 41-yard touchdown on a play that was identical to a long score in the Lions' 10-7 victory over De Soto on Tuesday night. Slater carried the ball on the successful two-point conversion.
On the ensuing kickoff the Wildcats attempted a bit of trickery as they apparently tried to fake a reverse on the return. The return men botched what was apparently supposed to be a handoff and fumbled near the 10-yard line, where Lansing's Steve Lillard picked up the ball and raced into the end zone. John Tytla's extra point was good, meaning in a six-second span the Lions had trimmed a 21-0 deficit to 21-15.
The fired-up Lions turned up the heat defensively on the ensuing play and had Holton facing third-and-long, when a rare Wildcat pass play was good for a first down. Holton went on to score on a 33-yard touchdown run by Brenner, and added another touchdown just seconds before halftime that pushed the lead to 35-15.
Holton added three more touchdowns in the third quarter and two in the fourth. Lansing's only score of the second half came with 3:57 remaining in the game when Warner connected with Neal Watson for a seven-yard touchdown.
Allen led Holton with 142 yards rushing on 10 carries, while Brenner added 137 yards on nine carries. The Wildcats piled up 441 yards of total offense, 391 of them on the ground. Meanwhile, Lansing had 293 yards of total offense. The running game that had been steady in recent weeks could only muster 58 yards, but Warner had a career day as he threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns while completing 21 of 47 passes.
Pekarek said the lopsided loss would by no means be the lasting memory of this season. The eight-game winning streak, the march into the state playoffs and the steady progress his players made are what he'll remember.
. "We had a great year," Pekarek said. "We did a lot of good things, so we're trying to make our players leave with a good feeling about what they've done because we've played a lot of good football in a lot of games."
Lansing 0 15 0 7 - 22
Holton 21 14 21 13 - 69
H - Alex Mercer 2 run (Colja Homann kick)
H - Nick Allen 34 run (Homann kick)
H - Fielding Brenner 31 interception return (Homann kick)
L - Jeff Slater 41 pass from Matt Warner (Slater run)
L - Steve Lillard 10 fumble recovery (John Tytla kick)
H - Brenner 33 run (Homann kick)
H - Allen 15 run (Homann kick)
H - John Mahon 8 pass from Cody Zimmerman (Homann kick)
H - Allen 37 run (Homann kick)
H - Brent Bechard 11 pass from Zimmerman (Homann kick)
H - Kyle LaMastus 15 run (conversion failed)
L - Neal Watson 7 pass from Warner (Tytla kick)
H - Mahon 48 kickoff return (Homann kick)